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« This Week's Acquisitions | Main | Brief note: Manservant and Maidservant »

June 12, 2009


Jasper Milvain

Samuel Butler, in his notebooks, says that he's looking for "three score years and ten of immortality", which sounds roughly like your not-quite-classic life cycle.


Easily available if digitized. I actually read Springhaven as an ebook a few months ago. Rushed ending and boring Tory rants.


Digitization will obviously play all sorts of havoc with our ability to equate "in print" and "still read." Maybe we'll have to go to page views and download counts...

Mr Punch

It seems to me that we're looking at the difference between literary fashion, which changes fairly quickly, and literary sensibility, which evolves over generations.

I wonder how many people read Scott (for nonacademic reasons) today. He is a great writer who was hugely popular in his day and for a long time after, but modern readers find him hard going.

The passage of time has a differential effect on the readability of individual works by a given author as well -- Dickens has held up overall, but his more sentimental works have lost ground relatively.


A writer seeking immortality might well be advised to write short fiction instead of or as well as novels and to do some writing in one or more of the following genres: supernatural, fantasy, science fiction or mystery.

Commercial publishers are always putting together anthologies of short stories in these genres and they often throw in copyright free (and therefore payment free) stories by older writers to "fill out the volume" as M.R. James put it.

A couple of years ago I picked up a used copy of an anthology of stories about witchcraft that had been published in the 1980s. It included a story by Dinah Mulock Craik who you mention. Unfortunately I don't have the book at hand and I recall neither the exact title of the anthology nor the title of Craik's story. I do remember that I found the story surprisingly good. I say "surprisingly" because I had vaguely heard of Craik as one of the most overly sentimental of Victorian writers. But the story was well worth reading.

Don Napoli

I'm guessing that the average original paperback novel of the 1950s had a shelf life of about six months. Very few made it into a second printing. Of course no one -- not the authors, the publishers or the readers -- expected anything else.


Just a quick thought--when I was young, some 40 years ago, George Meredith was fairly "hot". Although he remains in print, "Modern Love" is dwindling out of poetry anthologies and few people discuss "Diana of the Crossways" with the urgency of 1970. And how many of your students, or even colleagues, could tell you who Sir Willoughby Patterne is?

I know that there are many other examples I could mention, but this one came to mind first.

Is Mr. Meredith disappearing?

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